Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ethnic Food and Where to Find it in Rome

"If we are what we eat, who are we?" Donna Gabaccia

One of the benefits of being a #traveler, is that you get to try different cuisines in their original form.  Traveling, whether you have been a foodie before or not, gives you the opportunity to experience each culture in one of its finest and most basic expressions: food.  Once you've tried a simple but real spaghetti pomodoro in #Italy and a real Ramen soup in #Japan or authentic Chinese food, it's hard to settle for Spaghettios, or sugar loaded Chinese takeout.  Yes, you become a foodie!

My first meal on our initial assignment overseas in Sri Lanka,  was a "lunch packet" at the cafeteria in my husband's workplace.  It came presented as a gift: a square package wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with some natural fiber rope.  I was a little worried, but the contents smelled good.  As I opened my lunch package I discovered a chicken leg, lentils, rice and a hard boiled egg.  I sighted with relief as I was able to recognize all the ingredients and I had tried them all before.  It turns out Sri Lankan food can be extremely spicy and in this case even the rice was hot.  I managed to finish my lunch drinking exorbitant amounts of water, but later on I learned to love their cuisine and I truly miss it.

My husband had already traveled the world before we met.  On our first date, he took me to a #Korean restaurant and I passed the test, I guess.  Using a lettuce leaf as a wrap to tasty barbecue meat and cooking it all in front of you was lots of fun.  My children have learned to love Korean food and now we even make it at home.

When you live overseas and you are craving for a particular ethnic food, the only way to find it may be in your own kitchen.  That is the specific reason why I leaned how to cook.  Looking for Peruvian food in Sri Lanka landed me in my own kitchen trying to recreate the recipes I love.  If you haven't tried #Peruvian food yet, you don't know what you are missing!

Having admitted many times to being a fan of Italian food, once in a while my palate longs for some international flavors.  Unfortunately, #Rome is not as "Around the World" as Gaby.  It may be because Rome has considered itself the center civilization for too long or because not many Italians like to deviate from their Italian diets, but it's hard to find ethnic food in Rome!

Here are some of my go-to places when I am looking for different flavors:

The Arirang restaurant of course.  Located at Via M.D'Azeglio 3/F.  You can also buy Korean and Japanese ingredients (Ramen Soup, sushi rice, ginsen) at the Korean Market located in Via Cavour, 84.
El Norteño at Via del Castro Pretorio, 26, a couple of blocks from the Termini train station.  Overall the area surrounding the Termini station is where you can find most ethnic cuisines.  It's not the nicest part of town and the restaurants are not fancy but they satisfy the cravings once in a while.

There are several sushi places around town, as it seams to be the "it" ethnic cuisine in Rome at the moment.  Most Japanese restaurants are ran by Chinese but I found these true Japanese sushi bars:  Taki (via Marianna Dionigi 56-60) and Rokko (Passeggiata Di Ripetta 15)

For a great an inexpensive burger try Perfetto Panini & Burgers Gourmet located inside the "Rinascente" department store of Piazza Fiume.  For an organic burger in the nice part of town try the one in Gli Ulivi (Via Luigi Luciani 23).  They also make their own ketchup. If you feel like taking a ride to Castelgandolfo try Grapes (Lago di Castel Gandolfo, Via dei Pescatori 7) an all American restaurant with a good artisan beer selection.

Recommended by an Egyptian acquaintance, by far the best shawarma in town can be found in Shawarma Station (via Merulana 271).  They have a lot more than shawarmas and serve a great variety of Egyptian food.

The #EsquilinoMarket (via Principe Amedeo 184) is a daily market near the Augusto Imperatore metro station, where you can find Asian and Latinamerican vegetables and other ingredients.  Craving for bak choy or cilantro? you'll find it there.

Lastly, another source for #ethnic #ingredients is the supermarket chain #Castroni and one isle in the super store #Auchan. And those are all the tips I have for today.  Do you know of any great ethnic restaurant in Rome?  Can wait to hear about it!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Day in Verona, You Won't Regret It!

“She dreams of him that has forgot her love; You dote on her that cares not for your love." William Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Most people traveling to Italy for the first time, will center their energies in visiting Rome, #Florence, #Venice and maybe parts of Southern Italy.  But if you have been here before or have a bit more time to spare, consider visiting #Verona, the city of love, even if it is only for a few hours.

The city of Verona has been designated as a UNESCO's World Heritage Site, due to it's artistic heritage.  In my opinion, it offers a bit of everything: historic buildings, a unique architecture, good food and fashion.  The Arena of Verona, a Roman amphitheater, is the scenario of an important lyrical season.  Tickets for the 2014 Opera Season are already on sale (for purchasing tickets click here).  The Arena, which predates the Roman Colosseum, is located in #PiazzaBra, an open square that is the beginning of a pedestrian area, leading to the center of town.

Depending on your time and your planning, you can tour the Arena or attend one of the many shows taking place in it.  Even if you only see it from outside it's a sight worth seeing.  From there, the logical route is to take the pedestrian street Via Giuseppe Mazzini, where you will find a surprising array of fashion houses' stores.  When I visited Verona for the first time, I wasn't expecting this extra bonus!  If you are planning to splurge in some shopping, here is your chance (wink).

Taking a right at Via Cappello you will reach #Giulietta's House.  For many years the property of the Cappello family, it has the family crest and coat of arms in the inner courtyard.  The entry way leading to the courtyard is walled by white panels where hundreds of people draw hearts with their names and their significant other's. Tip: Pack a Sharpie!!  In the courtyard you'll find a bronze statue of Giulietta.  It's customary to take a photo holding her breast.  Then, for six euros, (1 Euro for children 8-14, and on February 13, 15 and 16.  On February 14th, the visit to Giulietta's house is FREE!)  you can visit the inside of the house, where several medieval bridal dresses are on display.  If you love weddings as much as I do, the visit is well worth the six euros.  Tip: If possible, take turns visiting the house, so someone in your group can take your picture while you stand in the most famous balcony in the world!

On the opposite direction, Via Cappello will take you to Piazza delle Erbe, another open square with many restaurants perfect of a coffee stop or for an apperitivo (happy hour).  There are kiosks with all kinds of souvenirs to take back home.  As I normally do, I avoid eating at those touristy restaurants.  They are OK for a drink to enjoy the piazza's ambiance, but the food is not a good representation of the amazing cuisine of this country.

Today, during my visit to Verona, after spending some time forcing the kids to pose for my pictures, I walked a few blocks away from the main attractions looking for a restaurant with good food and decent prices.  I ended up close to Ponte Pietra (stone bridge), another must stop in Verona.  Cappa Caffe (Piazzetta Bra' Molinari, 1) was an unexpected find.  One of those places where you would never guess what's inside, judging by their entrance.  Inside was this chic restaurant/lounge, that served us an excellent pizza for six euros and up.  Their white wash walls and decor hinted of a happening place for an apperitivo (happy hour) or an evening meal.  

All an all, Verona has enough going for it to make it a stop on your next trip to Italy.  There are several churches and museums to visit.  If I can lure you in with Romeo and Giulietta, you will not be disappointed because Verona offers much more than that.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What to See While in Rome: Piazza del Popolo

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.

I will never forget the feeling I had when I landed in "Piazza del Popolo" for the first time.  I had just moved to #Rome and after a couple of weeks figuring out the new house and the unpacking I decided to go for a walk and ended up at the #PiazzaDelPopolo.  I got mad at myself thinking I should have left the packing undone and the organizing for later, because the Piazza was at an arm's length and I had not yet discovered it!

View from Villa Borghese's Pincio terrace.

The Piazza is a large open square with an Egyptian obelisk in the middle, flanked by water spitting lions. Three streets originate at the Piazza: Via del Babuino, Via del Corso and Via di Ripetta.  One is nicer than the other; they are all cobblestone streets with clothing stores and restaurants.  I could walk them for hours!

You can also go up the ancient steps to #VillaBorghese (Rome's equivalent to Central Park) and enjoy one of my favorites views of the Roman skyline.

The Piazza del Popolo, that literally translates to People's Square has been for centuries a place for gatherings, from public executions up until 1826 to the modern day New Year's concerts and political rallies.  On any given day you can find street musicians and other performers.  

The square is my favorite spot for just soaking up the sun and for people watching.  Once I get hungry I look for a bite in one of the nearby restaurants.  Prices are always higher if you sit at the piazza itself.  A short walk from the square I found this great restaurant GiaNdo (Via Francesco Carrara 12) where they serve and amazing pizza, great salads and of course a good plate of pasta.  The ambiance is American chic and the service is great.

They love pizza and I do too!

I hope the tips make your time in #Rome an amazing one! Arrivederci,

Friday, February 7, 2014

Things to Do While in Rome: The Jewish Ghetto

 "Learn from history or you're doomed to repeat it"  Jesse Ventura

If you are coming to #Rome with a little more time than just to tour the Colosseum and the Fontana di Trevi, I highly recommend a stop at the Jewish Ghetto.  When I came here as a tourist, I have to confess that I skipped it, but yesterday I took advantage of the beautiful day in Rome and headed out to see this part of the city that had escaped me for some reason.

The Portico d'Ottavia, at the heart of the #JewishGhetto, is an amazing structure from the year 27 BC. From the Portico to the blocks leading to the #TurtleFountain you will find one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe.

The Jewish Ghetto was established on 1,555 in an undesirable part of town, prone to flooding.  Over 2,000 #Roman #Jews where ordered to live there in the most crushing poverty as they were only allowed to work unskilled jobs.  The three gates to the #Ghetto were locked at night.

It was amazing to walk through these cobblestone streets, witness to such horrors.  As when in October 16, 1943, trucks pulled next to the Portico di Ottavia and waited idle while German soldiers at gun point herded Roman Jews to the trucks and transported them to #Auschwitz.  Only 16 survived.  A plaque on one of the buildings reads: "On October 16, 1943, here began the merciless rout of the Jews. The few who escaped murder and many others, in solidarity, pray for love and peace from mankind and pardon and hope from God."

Details of the beautiful Roman Synagogue
Capture of the reflection of the Synagogue on a puddle of rain.
Today the Jewish Ghetto is visited by well-heeled Romans.  Its restaurants are very chic and they proudly display their specialty: #Artichokes Giudia Style.  I tried my first one yesterday at Hostaria Giggetto (Via del Portico d'Ottavia 21/A) and I have to say it was delicious!! (They also serve a spaghetti alla carbonara that is to die for!)

My very first Artichoke alla Giudia!!!

It was well worth the visit, and I can't wait to go there again!  For many more photographs of my visit to the ghetto visit my Facebook page.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Emergencies are Even Scarier Overseas!

"Success is the by-product of [...] preparation." John Wooden

This past week I had to deal with my oldest son's jammed finger (a basketball injury) and a flooded terrace that left unattended could have turned into a disaster at home.  It made me think about #emergencies and how situations can turn serious suddenly.  Do you know where to go in case of a medical emergency?  Do you know how to get there?  Do you know who to call in case you need help with translation?

I cannot stress how important it is for you to find out where to go in case of a medical emergency.  As soon as you get to a new city and specially if you have kids (any of your little ones accident prone?) make a practice run to the hospital/clinic, learn the route, find out if there is parking, how the system works.

I used to have all emergency numbers posted in my refrigerator when the kids were small.  I now realize that nothing has changed and emergencies can happen at any moment, to anybody.  So I am reinstating the practice and preparing myself for any type of emergency.   Here are the numbers you MUST have handy (maybe on the fridge, by the phone, in your nightstand).  Believe me, when you are under high stress you may not think as clearly, and you may have trouble finding numbers, or remembering where you stored them and of course, your cellphone will be out of battery.  Do yourself a favor, print them and post them in a place anyone can find them.

  • Write your number first, in case you have help in the house or hire #babysitters
  • Husband/wife's number
  • #Ambulance's number
  • Write the address of the closest #hospital/clinic and their phone number
  • #Fire department
  • Handy man
  • Office contact (maybe someone that could meet you at the hospital and help you translate?)
  • List any #allergies
***Found this great sample at

Also, have some drinking water stored if you have moved to an earthquake zone.  Candles and battery operated radios are also good to have.  Make sure you keep some canned food in your pantry, even if you are used to eating fresh food only.  Overseas, and specially in third world countries, you may have to deal with power outages and water issues frequently.  Also help may not come to the rescue as fast or may not be as efficient, so HELP YOURSELF!! Make a plan and be prepared.  I'm printing my Emergency Information Sheet right now.  Arrivederci!

***Image from